I’ll get up early, take the pink cardboard off of the pin board in my office for the last time and drive in. It’s a journey I have made forty-two times since the 2nd September 2005 and tomorrow my forty-third will be the last.
I go to the in-patient x-ray department first to get a chest scan. The reception area is never busy as it won’t even be nine o’clock yet. I’ll take a seat facing all the “let us know if you are pregnant” signs, the leaflets for every conceivable disease as well as the hand sanitizer bottle.
Once called, the usual ritual of stripping off and holding on to the two handles behind the plate as I hold my breath for a photo I will see later on begins. All being well this is the last time that will have to happen. In the early days I would also have to get CT scans of my head and torso. This involved drinking foul-tasting orange juice before entering the strange rotating donut.
Tomorrow though will just be a walk up to the Clinic. In the early days I was down in the Anchor Unit surrounded by people at various stages of diagnosis and treatment, but in Clinic D there will be few people around – both because of the time and the nature of the patients who attend on a Wednesday. Before I would have avoided eye contact, scared that they would judge me for not looking ill. I felt like a fraud. These were the people with cancer; I had managed to find it really early and was reasonably safe.
The physical exam and chat about how I am will follow. Bloods will be confirmed and x-ray checked. Unless at the last-minute it has decided to return I will wave my final farewell to this experience with cancer. That’s not to say we won’t be reacquainted in the future – but with old age you would be more expectant of those sorts of things.
Twenty Seven. Compared to some that’s old to be dealing with this disease, but it’s not about age. Cancer doesn’t understand labels, it just naturally develops and damages as it grows. To come face-to-face with your own mortality in your twenties does change your outlook on life – it’s not so much a “second chance” that some talk of getting, instead I saw it as a chance to open my eyes to the world; to look up and out instead of down and inwards.
The NHS gets a lot of bad press, but in my experience of the last ten years and the in-patient check ups I’ve had I can’t fault them at all. The dedication, care and professionalism of the experts I have met has only hardened my opinion that we have one of the greatest inventions in a healthcare system that is free at the point of need and it should be protected.
There won’t be a medal, certificate or even a sticker or lollipop to take away with me tomorrow. All being well I walk out of the building with my life and ten years of “All Clear” to add to in my own time. I think that’s reward enough.